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Cordero among the women leaders in STEM honored in statue exhibit

The statue exhibit at NorthPark Center in Dallas is on display now through November 9. It is a preview of a larger exhibit which planners hope to unveil in spring 2021. Photo courtesy of IF/THEN.
The statue exhibit at NorthPark Center in Dallas is on display now through November 9. It is a preview of a larger exhibit which planners hope to unveil in spring 2021. Photo courtesy of IF/THEN.

A national program designed to spark girls’ interest in studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is getting a big visual boost at a North Texas retail landmark.

The IF/THEN initiative was started in 2019 as a way to inspire girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media and learning experiences to pique their interest in STEM careers. The program is sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

An inaugural class of 125 IF/THEN ambassadors, comprised of women STEM professionals across a variety of industries, was named in fall 2019. The cohort includes Minerva Cordero, College of Science senior associate dean and professor of mathematics. The program provides the ambassadors with a national platform to tell their stories and inspire the next generation of STEM pioneers.

On September 10, a pop-up exhibit was unveiled at NorthPark Center in Dallas, featuring 3D-printed statues of some of the ambassadors, including Cordero. The exhibit is a preview of a much larger exhibit featuring statues of all the ambassadors, planned for spring 2021.

“Unfortunately, girls don’t see many role models of women scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, and so that’s the goal of this new IF/THEN exhibit – that if she can see it, she can be it,” Cordero said during an interview on the local Fox 4/KDFW Good Day show on September 10.

The idea for the statue exhibit is to provide girls with visual reinforcement of the many women who are making an impact in STEM and STEM-related fields.

“There are very few statues of women anywhere in any major city in the United States, but certainly we are not really showcasing all of the women scientists and engineers that are out there,” Cordero said. “So the idea is to have this monumental display of 122 female statues that are going to be displayed in Dallas.”

Organizers planned to launch the full 122-statue exhibit in May 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay in the schedule. The pop-up exhibit at NorthPark Center, on display now through November 9, is a preview of the larger exhibit, which planners hope to unveil in spring 2021.

The initiative also includes the IF/THEN Collection, which is a digital asset library of women STEM innovators, for educational and other noncommercial use. The collection is an online resource comprised of thousands of photos and videos representing women in STEM fields. It is the largest free resource of its kind dedicated to increasing access to authentic and relatable images of real women in STEM.

Cordero has been working to increase opportunities for women and historically underrepresented groups in STEM for years. In 2018-19 she served as program director of the ADVANCE and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) programs, in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Education and Human Resource Development.

As ADVANCE director, she led a team in supporting the development of innovative organizational change strategies to enhance gender equity in STEM academics in non-profit institutions of higher education. As director of the HSI program, she led an effort to enhance the quality of undergraduate STEM education at HSIs and to increase retention and graduation rates of undergraduate students pursuing degrees in STEM fields at HSIs.

Cordero has also served as director of UTA’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation’s Bridge-to-Doctorate Fellowship program and has managed UTA’s NSF GK-12 MAVS Program.

Watch the Fox 4 interview with Cordero at https://www.fox4news.com/video/849343. Find more information about the exhibit at https://ifthenexhibit.org/exhibit_preview/. Learn more about the IF/THEN initiative at https://www.ifthenshecan.org/. View the IF/THEN Collection at https://ifthencollection.org/

Cordero also talked about the exhibit and the IF/THEN initiative on WFAA TV’s Good Morning Texas show on September 24 and on KDAF CW-33 TV’s Morning After show on September 28.